Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.
#SuzyPFW Balenciaga: Fetishising The Past
Designer Demna Gvasalia brought the haute down from its heights
3 Октября 2016
Can Cristóbal and Spandex be spoken in the same breath? One is to be whispered in awe as the first name of hallowed Spanish designer Balenciaga; the other is a synthetic fabric that is body-hugging, super stretchy and exuding a certain brash vulgarity.
They were both at the peak of invention in the same year: 1958. But does designer Demna Gvasalia really want to sexualise an icon of haute couture and a designer who marked the course of fashion history?
Why not? It made for a bright, bold show in which the undercurrent of sexuality brought the haute down from its heights.
Instead of grandeur and grace, there was a streamlined collection that still applied the brand's codes, from architectural shapes to prints of flowers. It also had its elegant side with pleated blouses and diamanté brooches.
"Not sexy - sensual," said Demna backstage, although he was wearing a sweatshirt with SPANDEX written on the front. And his show notes suggested that today's designer saw something that lay behind the fashion sculptures of the past.
That sparkling circular brooch was borrowed from the Balenciaga archives and might indeed, as Demna imagined, have been held in Cristóbal's own hand "as he pinned it to the breasts of his original models". Fetishistic thoughts indeed.
Here is an intriguing designer who seems to be able to think through the VIP of his collections. No! Not those front row stars, but Visually, Intellectually and Practically. So the show could be seen on those three levels — visually there were the vivid colours, bright enough to bring life to a simple skirt or a pair of the stretch trousers.
And the bags — so vast that they were a statement all of their own with big buckets of red, orange, royal blue or florals. All the bags had the effect of having a feminine spirit from the 1950s given a bold new masculine stance.
Intellectually, there seemed to be various thought processes — the wide-shouldered trench coats as a continuation of Demna's debut Balenciaga display of sporty puffer jackets; femininity resuscitated as shapely blouses in mannish shirt materials; and the flowers that were part of both Cristóbal's oeuvre and of Vetement, Demna's other day job.
And the practical side at Balenciaga? Much of the above, producing clothes that seem wearable and 'normal' give or take the fetishistic vision of crochet mesh, not only as the partner to a prim lace skirt, but also as hosiery that looked like it was growing on the legs.
Demna's notes added "the thrill of fetishism" to latex capes, although I would have judged them more as the plastic ponchos on sale on the street during rain storms.
By the time that George Michael's Careless Whisper filled the thin, tented rooms, where Salma Hayek sat with her husband François-Henri Pinault, Balenciaga's owner, there is only one conclusion — the executive made a very smart choice in Demna.
With so many empty chairs in the carousel of couture houses, this designer has the guts and the smarts to give Balenciaga a new turn on Fortune's wheel.